Paris Region Moves Ahead with 125 Miles of New Metro Lines

» Months after regional and national officials agree to a huge plan for improving suburb-to-suburb connections, final decisions are made on future stations for Paris’ future supermetro. Completion of the initial project is planned for 2025.

In the developed world, few metropolitan areas are as dependent as Paris on their public transportation networks. Of mechanized trips within and into the central city, transit holds a majority mode share; in the 11.5-million-person Île-de-France region as a whole, almost 60% of all trips are made by foot, bus, or train. Part of the reason is that despite a century of continued development in the suburbs, densities are high throughout: The Petite Couronne (the inner ring of suburbs, with a collective population of about 4.3 million), for instance, is about as dense as the City of San Francisco.

But as in most cities, the increase in population outside of the central city (which now houses only about 20% of the region’s inhabitants) has until recently not been matched by significant investments in the transit network. Most new lines have been built either within the central city, such as the Métro Line 14, or radially out from it, like the RER E. Over the past few years, smaller projects like new tramways and bus rapid transit lines have assumed prominence, but their slow speeds and limited capacities have done little to improve circumferential travel around the city.

With yesterday’s announcement of the final route choice for the Grand Paris Express, however, that situation is set to change. After what was apparently Europe’s largest-ever series of public meetings and months of debate between local, regional, and national officials, the largest metro expansion on the continent and one of the most massive in the world is now under development. The national legislature is expected to approve the project and its financing this summer.

Altogether, officials plan to invest €20.5 billion ($29.5 billion) on 200 kilometers (125 miles) of rapid transit lines, most of which will be completed by 2025. With an expected two million daily riders, the Grand Paris Express program will transform the commutes of a huge percentage of the region’s inhabitants by offering far faster connections between suburbs, allowing people to avoid transferring trains in the central city and saving them twenty minutes or more on many popular trips. Trains will be automated and some sections may run 24 hours a day, a first for Paris.

The Grand Paris Express plan is a compromise between the French central government, which proposed a project called Métro Grand Paris in March 2009, and the Île-de-France region, which had separately concocted its own plan called Arc Express. They agreed to merge their projects in January, though final route alignments were not agreed upon until this week. A strategic decision was made not to directly connect Paris with Charles de Gaulle Airport north of the city, a component of the original Grand Paris plan, because it was feared that this link would overcrowd the system; instead, commuters will be able to transfer to another line to get there or use the existing link on the RER B.

Of total funding for the new lines, €4 billion will be granted from the national government, €1.5 billion from local governments, €7 billion from loans, €7 billion from new taxes on commercial activity and real estate (€500 million will be collected this year alone), and €1 billion from existing taxes. The state intends to use eminent domain to redevelop land around each of the stations. It will use the funds it accumulates through sales and added-value taxes to help pay off debt.

Separately, the region and state will by 2025 fund €12.5 billion ($17.7 billion) in upgrades to the existing system, including the construction of several new tram lines and busways and the extension of the RER E to the west.

Construction is expected to ramp up quickly, with the Île-de-France region and its STIF funding agency beginning an extension of the Line 14 Metro north to St. Ouen in 2014, with completion set for 2017 or 2018. This project, labeled the Blue Line, will use Line 14’s rubber tire trains and travel at average speeds of 40 km/h and is intended to relieve crowding on one of the existing system’s most overbooked lines, the Line 13.

Soon after, the Société du Grand Paris, a national government entity, will begin work on the southern section of the Red Line, from Champigny-Centre to Nanterre. This project will feature steel-wheel trains and average speeds of 60-65 km/h (37-40 mph), quite a bit higher than most of the Metro network today.

By 2020, work should be underway on the northern and eastern sections of the Red Line, as well as the extension of the Blue Line south to Orly Airport and the Green Line from Orly Airport to Versailles. Due to lower expected ridership, the latter project will be a light metro more like Vancouver’s SkyTrain, featuring trains with a capacity of about 250 people each, compared to 1,000 on the Red and Blue Lines.

In addition, an inner-east section of the project, from Noisy-Champs to St. Denis-Pleyel via Rosny-Sous-Bois and a short segment from Champigny-Centre to Val-de-Fontenay, will be put under construction by the region (the exact routing of these lines has yet to be determined). The original national government plan did not include this component, but the region insisted on its inclusion to serve the densest sections of the inner suburbs.

Up to eight tunnel boring machines are expected to be in use in parallel.

In total, 57 stations are to be built, 44 of which will provide transfers to the existing system and seven of which will offer links to the high-speed TGV rail network.

After 2025, other sections, including a branch of the Green Line from Versailles to Nanterre, a connection from Val-de-Fontenary to Rosny-Sous-Bois, and a link between Les Agnettes and Nanterre via Colombes, will be put under construction, though their funding has yet to be assured.

The scale of ambition in this Paris region project is stunning, especially since the hope is to concentrate 95% of the region’s job growth and two-thirds of its population growth within areas adjacent to network stations. Thanks to hard-fought cooperation between the regional and the national government, funding is assured for most of the project, and the result will be a tremendously improved transit system for the region’s inhabitants, especially those who live outside of the center city.

50 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • How are these lines going to be branded? If they’re branded as something other than Métro, will Line 14 be rebranded as part of the new network?

    Also, what about fares? Line 14 is in the one-zone Métro, so there is no payment at exit; will they have to install exit faregates on Line 14 and between Line 14 and the other lines, or will this system be one-zone as well?

    • Not clear on branding — the similarity between the “Blue Line” (Line 14 extension) and the RER B is quite problematic. I assume that they will eventually be branded as typical metro or RER lines, but I could be wrong.

      In terms of fares, you’re right: All existing Metro lines are one-zone. It has been said that these new lines would be charged based on existing zones, which means that new faregates would have to be installed on the Line 14 stations.

  • Patrick M

    In terms of strategic vision, coordination, execution, and most likely results, this is so far ahead of the conversations we are having in the USA I can’t come up with a suitable analogy/metaphor/comparison to express our behind-ness.

  • Sean

    Great day for France. While the U.S. has become a “can’t do” country, the rest of the world is proceeding with ambitious plans to upgrade its infrastructure.

  • Chris

    Wow, that’s huge, speaking as a former resident of Versailles and Paris proper. NYC ought to be doing the same thing.

    • Well, some people would say that NYC should integrate all the commuter rail systems, first. And create an integrated regional fare system. Otherwise this sort of regional planning and construction would be kinda moot.

      • Adirondacker12800

        NYC should integrate all the commuter rail systems

        ….why?

        • The premise was that ‘NYC should be doing the same thing’. So what’s Paris doing? – They’re building a new through-routing line going into the suburbs on both ends, and a large circumferential line connecting the whole metropolitan region. This is in the context of existing RER lines, which are all through-routing lines. In effect this is creating a large, integrated, regional network, providing service from many to many points.

          How would a large circumferential line, and one through-routing line make sense, if the already existing lines are not through-routed, and if the fares are not integrated? How could you make a network for the metropolitan region, providing service from many to many points, if the existing 4 networks don’t work together?

          • Adirondacker12800

            What are the points you are trying to connect? There is no La Defense in metro NY.

            • Ray

              You seem interested in preserving the status quo, Adirondacker. Do you believe having three separate rail companies serving the region works?

              • Adirondacker12800

                Besides giving foamers something to froth over what does merging them do for riders in the metro area?

              • I think you are making the basic assumption that there exist only riders from anywhere to CBD, New York. Paris shows that they are not making that assumption, that they view their metropolitan area as a poly-central one – it’s intrinsic to their plans.

                You cannot run a poly-central metropolitan area with all regional rail being incompatible and terminating at one point.

                So integrating commuter rail, and through-routing would benefit everybody not going to the CBD. Note I said ‘integrating’, not ‘merging’. The users don’t care who operates it, they care about the network and fare structure.

              • Adirondacker12800

                what’s the compelling destination in Elizabeth that makes someone from Woodside want to go to Elizabeth? Pick a bunch of other places. There aren’t many compelling destinations outside of Manhattan. Maybe Newark and the Pru. Flushing Meadow park and Citifield? The airports? The origins and destinations are so scattered that you don’t buy much by running the train from Port Washington to New Brunswick.

              • You gain a ton of capacity at Penn Station.

              • Adirondacker12800

                You gain a lot of capacity if it’s a three platform station. You don’t if it’s a 21 platform station. You get all the added fun and merriment that comes with delays in Long Island propagating to New Jersey or Metro North or New Jersey to Metro North or Metro North to Long Island.

              • J B

                Aren’t there 200,000 commuters between Long Island and New Jersey? I have friends who would benefit greatly from a one-seat ride between Queens and New Jersey. If integration would come at low cost per added rider, then why not?

              • J B

                Also wouldn’t it cut costs since LIRR, NJT, MetroNorth could share maintenance crews, etc.?

              • Adirondacker12800

                Aren’t there 200,000 commuters between Long Island and New Jersey?

                Generally their jobs aren’t close to train stations. Even if they are and you get one seat rides from X to Y, they live at Z or their job is at W. They would still have to change trains.

                Also wouldn’t it cut costs since…

                No. Each of them is big enough that combining operations doesn’t gain any scale economies.

              • Generally their jobs aren’t close to train stations.

                Crap. By far the biggest volume of commuters from west (or north!) of Manhattan to east of Manhattan is people working in Brooklyn and Queens. The biggest volume in the opposite direction is people working in Jersey City and Newark, though not by the same margin.

                Also wouldn’t it cut costs since LIRR, NJT, MetroNorth could share maintenance crews, etc.?

                It would cut costs because of that, and moreover because trains would not need to park in a CBD with high land values. With through-routing and combined operations, there’s no need for any of the railyards proposed as part of ARC.

              • Adirondacker12800

                And through routing the Port Washington train to New Brunswick gets someone from Brooklyn to their job in Jersey City how much faster?
                NJTransit’s yards are at capacity now. If they had built ARC they would need someplace to store all the new trains they were going to put into service.

              • I think it should be obvious that adding yard capacity in the suburbs is cheaper than in Manhattan.

                Through-routing shouldn’t necessarily go from one far end of a long line to another far end of another long line. One could run the trains from their faraway start to around 5-10 miles on the other side of downtown. Add some infill stations at good locations, and you’ll start looking at a much better network – with much less capacity requirements at the former terminal station (Penn).

                This would create a 5-10 mile circle around midtown Manhattan where all commuter traffic is bidirectional, and frequent – basically acting as a regional rapid transit network. Most of the jobs and activity centers are within this circle.

                This is what a lot of other cities have done, and it has a lot of advantages over terminating in downtown, and having separate entities with separate fare structures.

              • A 5-10 mile radius circle would incidentally be approximately what the Paris circle line is, above.
                It would also approximately correspond to the triboro RX proposal, if one would think of it as the right half of circle, to be completed on the left by going through New Jersey’s denser parts. Said line would be similar to Paris’ circumferential proposal.

                Which would bring us back full circle with the premise that Paris has a grand plan, New York ‘should do the same’.

              • Adirondacker12800

                The Long Island Railroad already has a yard just west of Penn Station. The yard will be under a few billions dollars worth of office and entertainment space someday. NJTransit is building their yard in a toxic waste site in a swamp. Hardly prime CBD space.
                5 mile radius from Columbus Circle leaves you mid line along the express subway routes. 10 leaves you just beyond the end of them. On the New Jersey side 5 miles leaves you in the middle of a swamp with the toxic waste site. Ten miles puts you in downtown Newark.

              • One of the advantages of RER-style running is that much less yard space is required, and what’s needed can be provided at or close to the outer ends of the lines. See track map here and compare to New York (at least before I have to take the New York maps down, which may well happen). Trains should be running and earning revenue all day, rather than park at yards.

                Don’t forget, ARC Alt G included a new yard at 12th Avenue. The cost of that was one of the excuses it got dropped.

              • While at it: Berlin S-Bahn track map. There are almost no sections that have more than 2 tracks.

                Note that the ridership is half of the RER (388M vs 743M a year), but still much more than the three NY commuter rails (about 80M a year, each).

                If you compare that to the populations of the metro areas (New York ~18M, Paris ~14M, Berlin ~4M), I think it should be obvious that New York is not using its huge amounts of tracks effectively.

              • Adirondacker12800

                Trains should be running and earning revenue all day, rather than park at yards.

                Running around empty is burning operating costs without any revenue.

              • Max Wyss

                @Alon: one might say, that they would use less “expensive near-city center yardspace”. Actually, it might be a very reasonayble idea to have workshops (or at least maintenance shops) halfway outside, so that maintenance can be done suring the less busy daytime.

                @Adirondacker 12800: A big part of operation cost is capital cost, which exists, no matter whether the vehicle moves or not. And there are other fixed operation costs as well. If with a well-set up system, during the day running recovers more than the variable operating costs, you better run those trains. …which reminds me of the slogan of a now defunct rolling stock manufacturer: “They are happiest when they move”

        • Rational Plan

          Well if you think there are no network benefits of integrated fares across bus, trains and subways you better start telling all those cities across the world that they are fools to spend such money.

          In fact why don’t we block off all those subway interchanges and make each subway line it’s own company.

          American exceptionalism, nothing to learn from anywhere else, because we are different.

      • AlanF

        There is probably not that much efficiency to be gained from fully combining all the commuter rail systems into one organization because it may end up just being a even larger bureaucratic organization with more layers of management and more politicians involved who can kill or stall projects.

        As for a circular system looping around the city core connecting the radial lines, the Tappan Zee bridge replacement project provides aspects of that. At one time, I gather one proposed concept was to run a commuter rail line from Suffern NY all the way to Port Chester NY, connecting across two NJ Transit lines and 3 Metro-North lines. Now it has been cut back, in various alternatives to a rail line from Suffern & the Bergen line to across the Hudson and running south to Grand Central on the Hudson line with a BRT line running to Port Chester. That this project takes place entirely in the state of NY does show how difficult it is to propose new large projects that straddle multiple states. One combined commuter system might help that – or make it next to impossible to move any major new projects forward without even more decades of studies.

        • Adirondacker12800

          The Hudson line is so far below the Tappan Zee that there either would be a very big bank of elevators to get the passengers from the upper transfer station to the lower transfer station or the line would have connected to the Harlem line. If you want to get people from Suffern to Manhattan the way to get them there is through New Jersey.

          • AlanF

            The Alternative plan maps on the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project website show the commuter rail line looping from the bridge and merging with the Hudson River line to run directly to Grand Central. No elevators or a transfer station, just what is likely to be a steeper grade. Looking at Google earth, there will have to be eminent domain for the rail connector, but to build a new bridge alongside the existing Tappan Zee, there are going to be a number of homes taken on either side of the Hudson river to make room anyway.

            • Ocean Railroader

              They could build a branch line off of the NEC to run up to the Tappen Zee Bridge and have it cross over it to join the Hudson Line and take the Hudson Line into Grand Central Station which would bypass the set of Hudson River rail tunnels all togetter and provide a bypass if the tunnels get damaged or break down.

              • AlanF

                That would be a very round about way to get to Grand Central. And one that would require diesel locomotives. If the Hudson River tunnels have to be shut down (which would be a very bad day), easier to offload all the Amtrak and NJ Transit passengers in Newark and cram them on to the PATH trains to 33rd street near NYP or other Manhattan stops. Those continuing north of New York can walk to Penn Station or take the subway to Grand Central.

  • Matt Fisher

    Bear in mind that some of the tram lines are actually guided bus lines, which by definition would constitute BRT, and two of them are being built now (T5 and T6, as mentioned in another post). I would prefer steel wheel on steel rail for these, but then again, they made the choice for a “tram on tires”. (This is in addition to the TVM BRT and the other BRT lines being built or in planning.)

    • I don’t think they should be labeled guided bus lines: They’re more like tramways on tires. They will use Translohr technology, which includes a rail in the center of the street and trains that can be operated in both directions, from what I understand. Remember that much of the Paris metro is in fact on tires as well…

  • Kevin

    How sad the US can’t do a quarter of what Europe is does. What a shame. I wish we had the cooperation, support and will from our government to improve our horrible transit systems. We have huge catch up to do USA.

  • Whenever you see a shape like the complex of red loops on your map, full of “T” junctions of lines, remember this:

    http://www.humantransit.org/2011/02/basics-branching-or-how-transit-is-like-a-river.html

  • AlanF

    The only US transit initiative that is even close to this in overall scale that I am aware of is the Los Angeles 30/10 proposal. But other than LA, NYC, Chicago, none of other big US cities quite match Paris in population and size. Philly, Dallas, Greater DC-Baltimore come close though. And Dallas and Greater DC probably could use regional transit project on that scale, but not likely to happen except in incremental steps over many years.

    Much of the Paris plan is building circular transit lines crossing radial lines to the city core for suburb to suburb (or high density to high density communities surrounding the core city). Offhand, I can think of only 2 other similar circular connecting transit line projects in the US:
    – The Purple Line in MD north of DC connecting across 4 DC Metro lines running to the core
    – The Tappan Zee bridge replacement project that I mentioned to build a E-W commuter rail line from Suffern NY to connect to the Metro North Hudson Line and BRT to connect to the Harlem and New Haven lines.

    Are there any other similar circular style transit projects in the US that are in development or construction?

  • Anon256

    LA’s planned Crenshaw and I-405 lines, both part of 30/10, are effectively orbital corridors. In Chicago, CTA’s Circle Line and Metra’s STAR Line would both be orbital corridors, but neither is a high priority at the moment (nor should they be). Boston’s Urban Ring project has been kicking around for a while, and has a Draft EIR, but has been watered down to just a few segments of busway and the MBTA still can’t afford it. A number of groups advocate for the TriboroRX orbital line in New York, and it was mentioned by the MTA as a project that could be considered if congestion pricing had passed, but calling it “in development” would be a stretch.

    • Andrew

      So if there’s all these orbital lines that aren’t being built in the US due to lack of funds, how did Paris get the organization to raise and gather funding for this project?

      • Until the ARC cancellation, the New York region had a total of about $24 billion budgeted for ARC, SAS Phase 1, ESA, and the 7 extension; it just would’ve provided much less, creating an opening for Christie to cancel the project. If French construction costs were as high as American costs, Ile-de-France would not have a transit consensus either.

      • Andre L.

        The French have a transportation tax on payroll for people working in Paris Metro Area that goes up to 2,6%. Such tax would be political suicide to be imposed on NYC.

        They also have a more streamlined process to assess environmental and neighborhood concerns. In other words, there are far less opportunities for residents of a single street to stall a project for months while they discuss, under the general nuisance case law, whether a 20ft ventilation tower is a nuisance of not.

        Indeed, in French (and also Spanish and German) law, there is no such widespread nuisance cause for suing anyone, unless the nuisance is specified, itemized or regulated by another law. Such law framework would be deemed unacceptable in US.

        Finally, Continental European countries (except for Italy where, voilà, works take longer to be completed), there is an administrative court that can issue final orders regarding public works. If they say “we discussed everything, case closed”, there is no opportunity for a last-minute Hail-Mary move from some aggravated party against the project.

        It is not that the French system is better or worse, it takes a different balance that wouldn’t be accepted in US as democratic.

      • Boris

        This project costs $236 million per mile. For comparison, the Second Avenue Subway is about 10 times more expensive (budgeted at $2.1 billion per mile, but there are massive cost overruns).

  • Lou

    the reason why the usa has all of that case law and opportunities to sue and delay projects is because of the era of urban renewal/ super highway spending. i dont think Europe went so far in that direction as the US did.

  • Matt

    New York region has:
    – Subway
    – Path
    – LIRR
    – Metro North
    – NJT
    – Hudson-Bergen
    – Newark LRT
    and probably more.

    No good reason why these cannot be integrated now, a regional plan created, and hopefully interlining in the future.

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